Interviews

Interview with CeannasaÍ (Hrafnskald

CeannasaÍ is the multi-instrumentalist mastermind behind the new USBM band Hrafnskald. I had the pleasure of playing in a band with him, I know him personally, and I’m really happy with what he’s doing in music right now. So let’s go. If you want a review of the album we’re going to be discussing, you can find that in the Rubber Axe archives.

First, I want to address the name of the band. It sounds Icelandic. Maybe I’ll show my stupidity but… what is “Hrafnskald”?

Hrafnskald is a combination of two old Norse words; Hrafn being Raven and Skald being Poet. (Edgar Allan Poe? -J.R.)

Hrafnskald evolved from a full band to a one-man project. What spurred this decision to go solo?

Everyone had multiple projects, plus jobs, families, and all that other real world business. There were no hard feelings whatsoever. (Hard feelings would’ve been way juicier…next time anyone asks this just make something up, like Paul Stanley does! – J.R.)

When listening to your album, I got a very distinctly Swedish vibe. I don’t usually get this vibe from American acts as they almost always ape Norse bands. Am I correct in assuming that Bathory may in fact be one of your biggest influences?

I think everyone who attempts to play black metal is influenced by Bathory, whether they know it or not. Quorthon was the Father of the genre as we know it.

Am I also correct in assuming you really like Dissection, Swordmaster, Thy Infernal, etc…

Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane was one of my gateway albums into black metal. Jon is a huge influence on me as a creative force, though I don’t think I sound a whole lot like him as a guitarist or vocalist. (Guitar but only in spurts…and most likely only I hear it. – J.R.)

The title of the record is “The Means of Barbarity.” Let’s explore this title because it’s kind of interesting. It strikes me as weird. It conjures up images, for me atleast, of guys getting whipped while they build a mentally retarded inbred old king’s bath-house. What, in your opinion, are the “means of barbarity”?

The Means of Barbarity is the mindset lets an individual grab the world by the throat and make their desires reality. I though a lot about this since the title was originally one of our own misheard lyrics, but every song tells a story that embodies that description.

Who did the album art for “The Means of Barbarity” and why was this artist chosen to do said artwork?

That would be Thurisaz of Akashah/Angelust/etc. Having been bandmates in Angelust for over 3 years, I saw quite a bit of his in-process and finished artwork. I gave him a description of what I wanted, sent him three songs, and we see the result. I plan to hire him for future releases as well.

The song “Hrafnskald” is probably my favorite one by you now upon multiple listens. I’ve been into Bathory since I was very young and this song evoked the spirit and feeling of his music. Black Metal loves to have songs named after their bands: “Lord of Depression”, “Tjolgtjar” and many many others which I don’t care to write here because I’m the guy writing this. Me! And I can reference what I fucking want. Did you write this song for the album or was that riff sitting in your brain for a while? It’s just really powerful and old sounding. Maybe you time traveled?

The main riff in Hrafnskald was almost part of about 7 different songs in the past. I have a bad habit of trying to cram too much into a given song, and Hrafnskald was me kicking myself in the ass to just write something I liked rather than trying to rewrite Mozart.

You played all the instruments here, but I know you primarily as a bass player from our short time together in Angelust. When did you first learn to play guitar? Were you always a vocalist? For instance, I sang in elementary school, church, middle school, and high school. After that, I sang in bands. I’ve just always sang. What’s your story then?

I taught myself to play guitar about 15-16 years ago, but I spent too much time trying to sound like other people. This album was me trying to sound like myself for a change, which was how I tried to shape my sound on the demo as well. For vocals, I had never done them aside from karaoke and things like that. It involved a lot of tea and bottled water between two recording sessions.

“And Ruins Remain” kind of reminded me of Dark Funeral meets Summoning. Was this intentional or am I just crazy?

I was listening to a lot of Sargeist when I wrote the main riff. Shatraug was one of several players that made me look at guitar different than I was in years past.

1990s Black Metal or 2000s Black Metal?

I have to go with the 1990s, as that’s what got me into the genre.

Good beer or cheap beer?

I’m drinking a Stone Arrogant Bastard ale as I type this.

“Ecstasy of the Hunt.” Why this song title? I have an old German hunting songs vinyl and it just sounds like one of the old song titles from it. And that vinyl is very old; the songs are ancient as fuck. So my question may seem ignorant or maybe out of left field but: What is your stance on hunting, gun ownership, and hunter’s rights in America today?

I’m a gun owner and am for hunting 100%. The lack of natural apex predators has caused major issues in many parts of the country, and hunters do everyone a service by keeping animal populations under control. I also love venison and would eat it daily if I could.”

This song was co-written by the other members when Hrafnskald was a band. Are they aware that Ted Nugent would absolutely love that song title? I am of the opinion that the song is actually about hunting other humans in a Conan style vein or some kind of other fantasy stuff, but I wonder if you have ever hunted animals? Did any of the other members hunt or fish or trap? Is this just a Conan style sword guy song? There is a true ecstasy and connection with the world that comes from it, and only hunters know that feeling. So continuing on with this multi-part, disjointed, strange ass question: Did you know that your bass playing was exactly like Gene Simmons on this song? Were you going for that here?

It’s about Odin’s Wild Hunt, so closer to the Conan business. For the bassline, I more or less just hit ‘Record’ and had some fun. A lot of the basslines were done that way because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ll probably do the same on future releases.

Guitar solos. You play them. So pick one. Ace Frehley’s hummable song-within-a-song type solos or the absolute flurry show-off of Eddie Van Halen?

I’m going with Ace solely because I prefer Eddie’s rhythm playing to his leads. For as much “The man who invented tapping” wank that gets thrown around, Eddie’s phrasing, chordwork, and harmonic sensibilities really get overlooked. (I agree – J.R.)

“Seething Malevolence” had some varied vocals in comparison to the other songs. I like the change-up. Do you plan to stick with the standard BM vocal or are you consciously exploring other styles for future material?

I plan to experiment with more guttural vocals and clean vocals in the future. I especially like the gutteral vocal style for backups; really adds some ‘oomph’ to a chorus.

“The Drowned” was another song written in collaboration with other members. I wonder, though. As a musician talking to another musician: Was there any blowback from the other guys regarding your decision to take songs you wrote as a band, and sculpt them into your own distinct shit?

Not at all. We discussed it a good bit before I took the project solo, and everyone has had nothing but good things to say about the end result. I was glad we got to play The Drowned live on what ended up being our second and final show as a band.

I’m on record saying this album is way better than the demo. I like what you’ve done. That said. The next album needs some guitar solos from J.R. Preston. So I’m asking in public.

I almost put my fist through the wall more than once when tracking leads, so there’s a good chance I’ll be taking you up on that.

If you were a baseball player, and you had to choose between playing for the Chicago Cubs or the St. Louis Cardinals, which would you choose? You can only choose one of these teams, because they are the only ones offering you contracts. I judge people based on their answer to this.

This is probably the hardest question you’ve asked. Being an Illinois native, I’m all too familiar with the storied rivalry between the Cubs and the Cards. I remember hearing a story about how the owner of the Cubs hired Harry Caray and made him the face of Wrigley Field and the Cubs franchise solely because the Cardinals owner fired him for banging his wife. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll go with the Cubs for that ridiculous burn.” (Just a rumor, probably not true, because Cubs suck. The only burn they can pull off is the burning of many talented men’s careers, reduced to nothing but ashes after associating with their team – J.R.)

When did you first know that you wanted to play metal? I was 5 or 6 years old and all I ever thought about from that point was playing guitar in a hard rock band. I find it fascinating to hear other people’s answers to this question. Therefore, I’m asking you this question.

I never got really into music until high school. My folks never had records and listened to talk radio, so I more or less had to sift through MTV and everything else that was available in a town of 700 people. A guy I lifted weights with in high school told me to check out Iron Maiden based on some of the classic rock I liked; the rest is history.”

Do you listen to any music outside of the rock genre? I don’t want standard answers others would give, like neo-folk or synth shit. What about country or jazz? Classic rock n roll? Psychedelic disco trumpeteers dressed up as dogs?

I’ve been known to binge listen Ernest Tubb, Roxette, Styx, Frank Zappa, and anything else that sounds good to my ears. People who talk about ‘guilty pleasures’ are lame; like what you and be a man about it. (Agreed – J.R.)

You’ve played some shows around the midwest with Angelust etc. What was your best experience and what was your worst experience?

I’ve been fortunate to play more good shows than bad ones. We opened for legends like Diamond Head and Absu, and we had one of the best crowds I’ve ever seen playing the first night of Midwest Punkfest in Memphis at a dive bar. Those people didn’t know us, but they were there for original music and a good fucking time. Even what was a bad show (some brewery in Indy for people who didn’t care about metal at all) was still all right because the trip still spawned some good stories. I’ll say the time we played a dude’s living room in Peoria was the worst.

The Central Illinois metal scene in my eyes has been a stagnant piece of shit since Impetigo left. Do you think this semblance of a scene will ever evolve into anything, or just remain a bunch of dorks pumping up their own ego trip without ever thinking once about what an audience gives a shit about visually or musically?

A lot of venues won’t even book metal in Peoria, and I assume it’s the same for a lot of other towns. We need to worry less about live shows and work more on just writing good music and getting it to peoples’ ears. Bathory proved that you don’t need to play live to make legendary music. I suppose you could call it ‘Getting back to basics’. I’m sure there will be another Hrafnskald live show somewhere down the road, but my focus now is promoting this album and starting work on the next.

https://www.facebook.com/hrafnskaldband/
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J.R. Preston

Active musician, the person responsible for - or involved with - cult projects as Tjolgtjar, Xexyz and many others, and the main person behind our wrestling coverage.

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